Marine awarded prestigious medal for saving driver in overturned vehicle in Oceanside

CAMP PENDLETON (KUSI) — A Marine once based at Camp Pendleton has been awarded a prestigious non-combat medal for saving the driver of an overturned and burning vehicle at the base north of Oceanside.

Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal on Monday at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

According to the Navy, the medal is the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the U.S. Department of the Navy.

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal was first bestowed during World War II to future president John F. Kennedy, then a Navy lieutenant. Only about 3,000 have received the award since.

"To win this award, there must be evidence the act of heroism involved very specific life-threatening risk to the awarded," the Navy said.

Peach was based at Camp Pendleton in 2015 when a car crashed in front of him on Interstate 5, according to the Marine Corps. The vehicle slammed into a wall and rolled several times, and Peach rushed to the driver’s aid.

"I was scared the entire time, but I saw a lifeless body sitting in the car and I wasn’t just going to turn my head and do nothing about it," he said. “Then I saw the smoke and knew I only had a certain amount of time before the car caught on fire.”

Peach and another man ripped the back hatch off the vehicle, but the driver was tangled up in his seatbelt and the Marine couldn’t pry him loose. Peach finally did cut the driver loose, carry him out of the vehicle and attend to him until paramedics arrived.

Peach was hospitalized after the rescue for smoke inhalation.

"Sgt. Peach is the embodiment of what we look for in our (non-commissioned officers)," said Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, commanding officer of Peach’s battalion.

"I’m proud of him and I know the family that he brought into the Marine Corps by saving their family, is happy he was there."

Peach said he’s stayed close to the man he saved.

"I talk to the family every other day," the sergeant said. "It feels good being able to help somebody out. It’s not about the awards. I never thought when this happened that I’d get this (award). I’m just glad I was there and able to help."

Categories: Local San Diego News